Phone-hacking victims are expected to demand a review of the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to cease pursuing criminal investigations against Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, Piers Morgan and other former editors at Mirror Group Newspapers.
Lawyers representing public figures and others who received payouts from the now closed News of the World or the Sunday Mirror or People said they intended to exercise the victims’ formal right to review after the director of prosecutions (DPP), Alison Saunders, said she had wound up the four-year operation.
No further action on UK media phone hacking, chief prosecutor saysRead more Gerald Shamash, who represents Paul Gascoigne and the former BBC executive Alan Yentob said: “Subject to clients’ instructions, we would want to have a review of the decision-making process. It’s available, it’s quite right and proper process to go through and we would want it reviewed. No doubt a number of the other [law] firms would want to join on this.”
Other lawyers indicated they would also likely seek a review, an intervention that came hours after Saunders said the CPS had concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring corporate charges against Rupert Murdoch’s News UK and criminal cases against 10 current and former Mirror Group employees, including Morgan and other former tabloid editors at the company.
The criminal inquiry began after it emerged during 2011 that phone hacking had been widespread at the News of the World, prompting Rupert Murdoch to close the Sunday tabloid. An investigation into hacking at the Mirror Group titles began subsequently, and the overall investigation into newspaper phone hacking and other corrupt practices led to 154 arrests, 45 convictions, at a cost to the police of £41.3m.
Both publishers paid out millions in civil settlements to victims of the intrusion. The family of the murdered teenager, Milly Dowler, received £3m in compensation from Rupert Murdoch and his media empire. Ex-footballer Gascoigne and the actor and designer, Sadie Frost, were among those who received a share of £1.2m in compensation from Trinity Mirror.
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Under the terms of the victims’ right to review policy, the formal request must ordinarily be lodged within five working days of the publication of the CPS’s decision. In 2013, the then DPP, Keir Starmer, introduced the policy, calling it one of the “most significant victim initiatives ever launched by the CPS”.
In June, alleged victims of Greville Janner successfully overturned the CPS’s decision that he should not stand trial for historical sexual abuse charges due to his dementia. The decision that Lord Janner should face trial, reached by an independent QC brought in to review the case, marked the first time a DPP has had a major decision not to proceed with a prosecution overturned.
The possibility of a corporate charge against Murdoch’s UK newspaper operations was the only remaining criminal threat hanging over his newspaper group. The CPS concluded: “An individual was paid significant sums of money over many years by NGN [News Group Newspapers] for phone hacking, but there is no evidence that anyone on the board knew that the money paid was because phone hacking was taking place. Therefore, there is no senior officer of the company through whom corporate criminal liability could be established.”
Several former News of the World executives were put on trial for hacking, and one former editor, Andy Coulson, was found guilty as was Glenn Mulcaire, a specialist hacker placed on a regular retainer by the tabloid. But another former editor, Rebekah Brooks, was acquitted, and she has since been reinstalled as chief executive of News UK.